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Thread: Dark North American wood for headplate (not walnut)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    Conway, Arkansas
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    Default Dark North American wood for headplate (not walnut)

    I’m in the middle of an “Americana” tenor ukulele build for my son-in law. Using only woods from North America. The ukulele has a walnut body and neck and maple binding, bridge and fretboard.
    I need some help with the headplate wood. Do any of you have any ideas/suggestions for a darker wood (not walnut) that is preferably burl that I could use for the headplate? I am really running into a brick wall here. It doesn’t have to be as dark as the walnut, but it needs to be dark enough that the gold mother-of-pearl inlay doesn’t look sloppy (It is a thin script). I’m definitely not trying it with maple.
    Anyway, any ideas sure would be appreciated.
    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
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    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA
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    Myrtle can have some very beautiful figured grain and color variations from light to very dark.
    Larry

    • ROMERO CREATIONS SOLID MAHOGANY "TINY TENOR"
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  3. #3
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    May 2018
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    Kekaha, Kauai
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    Mesquite (Kiawe here in Kauai), cherry (may need to stain)
    Brad
    Bradford Donaldson
    Kekaha, HI and Cannon Beach OR
    bradfordj48@outlook.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    Little River, California
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    This is an interesting question. I'm assuming you want dark to cover your mistakes when you inlay (good idea) and when I think dark American wood I think walnut. I would not necessarily think myrtle because it tends to be medium gray. You can however stain it down and still retain your figure. Mesquite might be a choice as it tends to be dark but the figure can be a little blah. Of course you can "ebonize" anything and make it black which is great for inlay applications. Also there are lots of different "walnut" species. Consider California claro walnut which can be quite dark.

    Black Mesquite: black-mesquite-sealed.jpg

    Claro Walnut: claro-walnut-sealed-wt.jpg

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    I've seen darker than usual redwood and even red cedar, though they're not especially dark. Might look weird with the walnut body. Some pistachio is pretty dark, too, but it's really wild. I've heard of a couple builders using pistachio, including Aaron Keim.

    If you want something darker, there's Texas ebony, which I don't think is real ebony, but it's fairly dark. I've seen that used as a guitar fretboard. I've also seen ironwood fretboards, which is also pretty dark, but it seems hard to come by in pieces bigger than knife handles and pens.

  6. #6

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    I am going to just list a brainstorm: ironwood, cherry, mesquite, pecan, some persimmon but you would have to find the right piece, redwood, some of the cedars but again you have to be choosy and its not really "dark".....

    You could also consider using a darker shade of shellac and tint it that way or even consider some roasted/torrefied woods like maple witch can get quite dark that way....
    Not sure how a torrefied wood would work with inlay though as I have not worked with it myself....

    But in the end I really like working with mesquite and pecan myself....

    All the best on your project!
    Last edited by Jardin; 06-26-2020 at 04:42 AM.

  7. #7
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    Texas ebony is interesting: Ebenopsis ebano. Problem would be finding a piece big enough for a head plate. Some things taken from the Wood Database:

    Common Uses: Knife handles, inlay, fine furniture, turned objects, and other small, specialty wood items.
    Comments: In addition to Desert Ironwood, Texas Ebony might be considered one of the only “exotic” hardwoods that’s native to the United States.
    Though it’s not a true ebony in the Diospyros genus, it’s perhaps the only native wood that’s dark enough to serve as a respectable ebony substitute. (And, like most respectable ebony substitutes such as Katalox or Wenge, it’s also very expensive.)

    texas-ebony-sealed.jpg

  8. #8
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  9. #9
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    Dec 2019
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    Texas ebony can be very chocolate to almost black. My first uke was out of all Texas woods (mesquite and Texas ebony). Black mesquite is a South American species, I believe and is fairly blah. Honey mesquite is not as dark as walnut of course, but you can find pieces with awesome flame, curl and depth.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2015
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    476

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    You could try darkening some woods with ammonia. Some woods react, some not.

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